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tv   Weekends With Alex Witt  MSNBC  March 17, 2012 7:00am-8:00am EDT

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details on new this morning, we know the identity of the soldier in the afghanistan shootings. new details ahead. here we go again. will key states voting this week put an end to the gop presidential primary race? we'll get some predictions. where does he rank? an expert gives us a new look at where president obama might rank in history but it depends on one big factor. one of the writers of the "game change" book tells us how he accidentally got a cameo in the movie. good morning. welcome to "weekends with alex witt." developing this morning we know the identity of the american soldier facing charges in the killings of 16 afghan civilians. army staff sergeant robert bales was flown out of kuwait and is
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at the detention center at ft. leavenworth, kansas. he's 38 years old, married with two children and is highly decorated after three previous tours in iraq. john yang is in kansas and we'll have more details and a live report just a few minutes from now. let's go now to front-page politics. we are watching three big contests in the republican presidential race, missouri, puerto rico and illinois. rick santorum is campaigning in month many right now. gop caucuses take place there today. santorum is the favorite after getting 55% of the vote in missouri's nonbinding primary back in february. a bit later he's heading back to illinois ahead of that state's primary on tuesday. >> they tell us it's 10-1 right now in illinois. we don't have -- i don't have a lot of billionaire friends. i didn't grow up in that area. don't know those kind of folks by and large. we're just going to win this with people. >> mitt romney was also in
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illinois friday before heading to puerto rico for tomorrow's primary there. romney focused on the economy and took direct aim at president obama. >> this all collectively i'll call the economy and on that issue, this president's a light weight. it's not because he's not smart. it's because he never worked in the free economy. he's never had a job in the free economy. it's hard to create a job if you've never had one. >> and here's something you don't see every day. there's newt gingrich petting an elephant. he visited a new orleans zoo on friday. louisiana's gop primary is march 24th. joining me now, national political reporter for politico james helman and for "the washington post," felicia sonmez. james, i'll begin with you. the latest poll out of illinois, romney is leading with 37%, then santorum has 31% and then gingrich and paul.
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if romney wins, is this over? >> no, sadly it's not. >> i keep asking that before every primary. >> we'll ask it next saturday before wisconsin on the following tuesday. this thing is going to go a couple more weeks. romney is almost certainly going to win illinois santorum folks downplaying expectations and saying they're looking at louisiana despite their efforts there. santorum is winning. he probably will almost certainly win today in missouri. this contest could really the first time it could wrap up is the day of the pennsylvania primary. if for some reason romney is able to pull off an upset in santorum's home state and the romney people are starting to spend money there, get establishment, endorsements. that at the end of the month could be the first opportunity for it to be essentially over. but there's a very good chance this thing goes on for some time. >> do you think romy could win in pennsylvania? >> it would be really tough. i think it could end up getting close and at the end of the day, romney could end up getting more delegates out of pennsylvania. it ill with be a fight.
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>> okay. felicia, it really comes down to momentum versus delegate count in some ways. can santorum's momentum equal enough delegates eventually to end up challenging romney in tampa? >> it all depends on who you ask, alex. if you ask the santorum campaign they will say absolutely and point specifically to the difference between the delegates who are bound to support a candidate and those who unbound. there are the republican national committee members. the gingrich and romney camps will say they're going all the way. santorum has a whole bunch of problems in the state of illinois, for instance, there are four congressional districts in the state where he will not be eligible to receive delegates. so even while he's looking for those delegates trying to make his case that he's the best candidate aside from romney in the race, he has a little bit a logistical problem there in making that argument. >> james, then you have newt
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gingrich who's arguably siphoning off conservative votes from santorum and vowing to stay in the race until the convention. give us a reality check. what do you see happening with gingrich going forward? >> i've started a death watch clock that i started on tuesday. his campaign is irrelevant and essentially over but you're right, he could cost santorum key support in a place like he was at the zoo. gingrich supporters are starting to get behind santorum. on tuesday, despite how well gingrich did in mississippi and billion bam, santorum still won. so i think gingrich will stick around for a little while longer but he's increasingly being written off and ignored. >> is there any indication that sheldon adelson, any indication he's going to put his money elsewhere? >> that's the million dollar question, literally. there is. the superpac hasn't made big ad buys in the states coming up.
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they haven't placed an ad in several days. if that line of cash dries up, then gingrich is going to have a hard choice to make. because he's going to have to decide whether to go and take on massive debt and embarrass himself or get out of the race. >> felicia, the president was out fund-raising in his home state of illinois this week. here's what he had to say on friday. >> i'm a little greyer now. it's not as trendy to be involved in the obama campaign as it was back then. some of you have, you no he, rolled up those hope posters and they're in a closet somewhere. >> felicia, the president acknowledging there is something of an enthusiasm gap. is that partly because the democrats don yet know who their opponent is going to be? >> i do think that's part of it. but also i think it's important to remember the president is at 46% approval rating right now nationally. democrats everywhere are taking
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a second look at him and a lot will depend on what happens economically over the next couple months. i was at that fund-raiser in chicago and also took a visit by the obama campaign national headquarters just down the street from there over these past few days. they were already very hard at work, making phone calls and organizing with an eye toward november. so even though the nominee on the republican side probably will not be known until june it looks like at the earliest, the obama campaign still definitely is mobilizing. i think the president faces the same problem that frankly a candidate like scott brown in massachusetts also faces, which is that he was able to run sort of as this blank slate four years ago, as someone who was able to represent what a lot of voters wanted to see in his candidacy. this time around, he has for better or worse, a lot of different agenda items that his administration has followed through on and as a result will have to defend that going into november. >> very good point you make. you, too, james helman.
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>> thanks, alex. puerto rico holds its primary tomorrow. the illinois primary is on tuesday the 20th, march ends with the louisiana primary on the 24th. looking ahead to april, washington, d.c., maryland and witne wisconsin hold theirs on the 3rd and new york, pennsylvania, delaware and rhode island hold theirs on the 24th. let's get more on sergeant robert bales, the suspect in the afghan killings. john yang is outside ft. leavenworth in kansas. good morning. >> staff sergeant robert bales is waking up on u.s. soil for the first time this morning since he was deployed to afghanistan in december. but he's not at home in washington state. he's here at ft. leavenworth in solitary confinement. staff sergeant robert bales seen here training sat a military facility in california is housed in a pretrial detention facility. he's awaiting formal charges in
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connection with the shooting rampage that left 16 afghan civilians dead, including women and children. he's the married father of two young children of his own who have all been moved on to a military base in washington state for their own protection. >> they're suffering a lot. they're confused a lot. more than anything, everybody is very concerned. they're scratching their heads more than anything else. >> reporter: neighbors in his washington state community are shocked. >> super nice. super nice family. nice people. nice parents. i mean, nice friends. i just -- i'm completely blown away. >> reporter: according to his lawyer, bales enlisted shortly after 9/11 and decided to make it his career. he'd been sent to iraq three times, suffering a head injury and losing part of a foot. >> he was told he would not be going back to the middle east. he was training to be a military recruiter. and then overnight he was told he was going back. >> reporter: in afghanistan, he
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was witness to more of war's brutality. >> there was an incident right before these allegations where one of his fellow soldiers was mortally wounded. >> reporter: he's described as a highly decorated member of the 3rd stryker brigade 2nd infantry division with a good combat record. stateside, he is said to have lived an unassuming life close to base. his lawyer suggests bales may be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and it might play a role in his defense. >> i think you would have to assume that's going to be an uphill battle, just on general principles. >> reporter: according to washington state court records, twice since 2002 bales has been in civilian court facing misdemeanor charges, each time the court ordered him to go -- undergo anger management
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training. his next court appearance will be in military court, a required hearing to determine whether the military can keep holding him while their investigation continues. alex? >> nbc's john yang. many thanks. will american troops be brought home sooner as a result of this massacre or could troops wind up staying in afghanistan longer now? we'll hear from an investigative journalist who spent a lot of time in afghanistan and is going back. let's go now to the weather. spring officially arrives on tuesday. but in much of the country, winter seems to be already gone. here's a live look at new york city where the last-minute preps are under way for today's huge st. patrick's day parade. will the warm trend continue? let's ask meteorologist bill karins. good morning. >> good saturday morning to you. a happy st. paddy's day to everyone out there. incredible party time weather will be taking place in the midwest. let me show you what the average high temperature map should be for today. it should be around 47 in
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chicago today this time of year, 41 in minneapolis. we have been so much warmer than that as of late. yesterday's highs was 82 in chicago. 40 degrees above average. summertime heat has moved through the middle of the country and stayed there the last four or five days. and that's not going to change today. the march extremes continue. summertime heat, all the way up to the canadian border from chicago to detroit, all the way through the midwest, even down in the southeast today, very warm for this time of year. the other extreme, look at the west coast. you are dealing with wintertime conditions. snow in the mountains of central california. we've got rain heading down into the los angeles area during the day today. that's a batch of pretty heavy rain when it moves through with gusty winds. the snow levels will come down, too. this is a slow-moving storm system. we see snow in areas in the las vegas mountains, northern portions of arizona and in the san juan mounden en mountains .
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out west is where we have the troublesome weather. it looks like that storm will linger and ruin a lot of people's weekend out there in southern california. we have the los angeles marathon this weekend, too. >> all right. thank you very much, bill karins. after the verdict in the college webcam spy case, a look at what the wider implications of this decision could be. and in office politics, john heilemann, the co-author of the "game change" book tells us whether he wanted it to become a movie. we'll talk about it here on "weekends with alex witt." this one's for all us lawnsmiths. grass gurus. doers. here's to more saturdays in the sun. and budgets better spent. here's to turning rookies - into experts, and shoppers into savers. here's to picking up. trading up. mixing it up. to well-earned muddy boots.
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before his death last year,
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osama bin laden may have been plotting to have president obama killed. that is what a new report in the "washington post" suggests. documents taken from bin laden's correspond in pakistan by u.s. navy s.e.a.l.s described the plot. the post says bin laden wanted to have his agents attack the president and general david petraeus. administration officials told the post, the obama/petraeus plot was never a serious threat. the american soldier arrested in the killing of 16 afghan civilians is now back in the u.s. staff sergeant robert bales is in custody in the maximum security detention facility at ft. leavenworth, kansas. he could be charged with murder and face the death penalty under military law. joining me from washington is investigative journalist matthew akins who has been covering afghanistan since 2008 for many publications. i know you've been to afghanistan a number of times. you will permanently be living there soon. put what happened in perspective. >> well, you know, on this kind
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of small special forces base where bales was living, there's not a lot of supervision and apparently he was able to bluff his way past the afghan guards who were guarding the outer perimeter. once he went to the village, as the villagers have said, they were used to night raids in the area and used to u.s. soldiers kicking down their doors at night. they knew in those situations if they put up resistance they'll be killed. so he was able to go from door to door, trying different doors, killing 16 people, 9 of them children, in their beds. that's one of the most horrifying details for me to emerge with. >> there is never a good time for something like this to happen but you say right now it is a particularly bad time. why is that? >> yes. >> yes, this is one of the worst times it could happen. right now the u.s. is trying to negotiate a strategic partnership agreement with the afghan government that will basically determine the status, legal status of afghan forces
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post-2014. right? so obviously, there's a lot of calls in afghanistan that this guy should have been tried in the country. it will make it harder to negotiate this, which they're trying to do ahead of the nato summit in may. let's not forget in iraq it was the failure to negotiate a status of forces agreement that led to president obama pulling out military troops early from that country. >> a good reminder there. do afghans view this, matthew, as an act of one rogue soldier or is this reflecting on the u.s. military presence as a whole? >> you know, as people have noted the reaction in comparison to the koran burning incident a couple weeks ago was a lot more muted. but unfortunately that's not a good thing because it does show how afghans see this as part of a larger pattern of the killing of civilians. they don tend to draw distinctions between a rogue act and, you know, an errant air strike that kills women and children or collateral damage
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from a night raid that kills women and children or warlords who kill women and children. sadly, the lack of reaction comes to show how much they come to expect this tragedy in the country. >> can i also ask you about this, "the washington post" suggests that osama bin laden was trying to organize a plot to kill the president. what is your sense of that? was he in any position to organize anything or were these the musings of someone no longer relevant. >> al qaeda hasn't been able to organize a terrorist attack in the united states since 9/11, a successful one, let alone an attack on air force one and the most heavily guarded man on the planet. so this is more in the realm of fantasy. i think it shows an increasingly isolated and out of touch with reality bin laden had become, locked away in a safe house in abbottabad, pakistan. it shows how much the strategic situation with al qaeda has changed since 2001 when we originally went in the country. >> i mentioned at the top of
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this, you're heading back to afghanistan. you're going to live there. why? >> i think it's important as u.s. troops start pulling out of the country and i think as a lot of the world's attention turns away that there be journalists there to witness what happens to afghanistan and the afghan people. i think it's also going to be a very interesting time. unfortunately that's not always a good thing with journalists. >> are you worried about your safety? >> there's always a worry when you're in the country but after a while, i've been going there for four years, you learn how to take precautions and reasonable risks. >> matthew akins, i wish you the best of luck. stay in touch with us. >> thanks, alex. a new study that says president obama could end up being recognized as one of the greatest presidents of all time. but there is a catch. we'll share it here on "weekends with alex witt." for fastidious n emily skinner,
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now to the big premoney headlin headlines, taking stock, backlog, mind the gap? >> happy st. patrick's day. >> i see you're wearing green. >> that's right. >> do you think investors are optimistic about the economy? >> i think so. i think they're optimistic about the economy, the global economy, the economic data has been pretty good as of late. sentiment took a bit of a hit in march. consumers are spending, going to the malls. you're seeing more cash get off the sidelines and put into equities which is a positive sign. if we see negative data going forward this could easily be derailed. it's still very fragile. >> foreclosures, let's talk about that. they fell but you think there may be a rising tide ahead. >> here's the reason why there could potentially be a rising
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tide. it's because of the $26 billion mortgage settlement. this settlement clarifies how banks will handle the foreclosure process going forward. it removes the barriers that have not allowed the banks to move the process along. they'll move delinquent home owners into the foreclosure process more quickly. you'll probably see an uptick. >> how about diane von furstenberg? >> i love it. we've seen partnerships with the high end designers teaming up with mainstream retailers. i think it could be a winning combination, a win/win for both. you have the trade mark, the iconic wrap dresses, bold, fun prints, accessories, shoes for kids. i think it will definitely resonate well. this is for babies on up to age 14. so really something for everyone. you can even match with your mom if you're so inclined. at a price point that people can afford. we're talking $20 for the ballet flats on up to $120 for the
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diaper bag. i'm interested. >> i am, too. i'll be interested to see how that goes. wish her well. >> thank you. in today's one-minute play back, stephen colbert's reaction to the latest developments in the gop race for the white house. >> the gop presidential race marches on. or in the case of newt gingrich, shambles on. stops for breath and then makes a small purchase at tiffany's. yesterday the inevitable nominee mitt rominee reiterated his campaign's core message of hope. >> i made a lot of money. [ applause ] >> i tell you, that is a guy i would like to have a beer company with.
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welcome back to "weekends with alex witt." guns firing, metallic confetti.
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huge speakers blaring salsa and reggae music and even a fireworks display have been part of mitt romney's stay in puerto rico as he tries to drum up support ahead of the primaries there. many of the festivities have been taking place in san juan. joining me now is msnbc's peter alexander. good saturday morning to you and to you. >> let's talk about, first i know we've got some mitt romney stuff to talk about. let's talk about rick santorum as well. because he's come under fire for his remarks in puerto rico. on the heels of that, how is mitt romney being received by the residents there? >> let's first explain exactly what it was that rick santorum said. he's now in missouri and will be in illinois for some of today. when he was here trying to get to the island ahead of mitt romney he said something that left a firestorm in his wake saying specifically if puerto rico wanted to become the 51st state it would be necessary that english be the primary language
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here. that did not sit well with a lot of his supporters and some of the voters in this area, one supporter in particular said he wants his name removed as a delegate for rick santorum here in the islands, specifically santorum tried to back pedal, do damage control. saying english doesn't have to the the primary language though the preferred language. it didn't have to be the official language here. mitt romney has said english should be the language of opportunity, spanish is the cultural language, the historic language for the island of puerto rico. he really was well received. one reason the campaign feels strongly he'll do well with 20 delegates at stake, which is more than new hampshire, vermont or hawaii is the fact that he has the endorsement of the popular governor, who initially helped him campaign in florida, trying to get out the hispanic vote there. today the two of them were on stage. it was unlike anything we've seen in the course of three
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months we've been traveling with mitt romney. there was the music blaring, the fireworks at the end of the event. this was really a carnival more than it was a political event in the eyes of at least the americans who came down. we don't see stuff like this when he traveled throughout the u.s. ann said, there's a lot of hugging and kissing. she said to the crowd, you show us how to party. mitt romney didn't dance but it was anticipated that he might. every other politician who got up there with their remarks did a little salsa as well. >> i don't know if we want to see that. from any of them, really, when you think about it. >> thank you. president obama was on a cross-country fund-raising tour while mitt romney continued his quest for delegates in puerto rico. rick santorum laid the ground work in illinois ahead of tuesday's primary there. joining me is nbc news deputy political editor demanico.
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good morning. >> good morning. >> virginia, north carolina and colorado, all states with growing pop layings of young, college educated high-salaried voters, also all states that he took in the 2008 election. what do you take on those? what's your take on those three states? >> there are certainly tossups on our map. there are a lot of tossups on this map of ours. if you look at places like nevada, colorado, very important as well, because of the hispanic vote in the west. could be president obama's fire wall in the west. some of these big states are going to be equally important. you look at ohio, florida, the fact is, that democrats though, president obama has a wider path to 270 than republicans do. republicans have to win places like florida and ohio. president obama does not. >> okay. president obama had a big day of fund-raising yesterday with five events in atlanta and chicago where his campaign took in nearly $5 million.
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do you see the president as being in full campaign mode? >> there's no question that they're sitting back, doing the work necessary in the campaign as this republican primary continues. there's nobody who loves the fact that this republican primary goes on longer than the president than his campaign team. you saw vice president biden out last week. he'll be in south florida on friday, talking to older voters. one in five voters in florida in 2008 were senior citizens. so, you know, you have biden out in various battleground states. they are really testing the message and starting to get on a roll. >> yes. we've seen both rick santorum, mitt romney campaigning pretty hard in puerto rico, that is a territory that despite its 23 delegates can't even vote in the general election. what's the strategy there? >> shades of 2008, remember hillary clinton riding through the streets of san juan in pickup trucks and music blaring. >> i do. >> you know it's a race for delegates when people are campaigning in puerto rico when they don't have any say in the
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general election but it's all about the delegates. 23 delegates, a significant share. and that's going to, you know, that's what's going to determine this race. mitt romney still looks like he's on track to the nomination. kind of a slow burn, a slow bleed with these new rules for republicans. rick santorum is going to have to hope to get 60 plus percent of the delegates going forward. really a difficult thing to do, especially considering the well finance, well oiled machine that the romney campaign has. when you come down to a state like illinois on tuesday, it's going to be key to see if rick santorum can turn the momentum. >> always good to talk to you. thanks. >> thanks. a new poll shows raynes are less xpited about mitt romney and rick santorum than they were about john mccain four years ago. the gallup poll shows 35% voting enthusiastically for romney, 34% saying the same for santorum. compare that to john mccain when
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47% of republicans in 2008 said they would vote enthusiastically for him. let's go now to this week's office politics. my conversation with "game change" co-author john heilemann. we discussed his on-camera role in the hbo movie version and why he thinks sarah palin should see the film. >> the book changed my life a lot. when the book came out it went to "the new york times" best-seller list. a lot of people said things will change for you. it's all for the best and all for the good. it's opened up a lot of doors and opportunities. the movie has more been coming along for the ride even though we helped them with the script as consultants. it was hbo's thing. it was an incredibly satisfying and fun thing to see it up on screen. >> you were taking a number one "new york times" best h-selling book which you put your glad, sweat and tears to, and you're
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thinking they are going to make a "game change" movie? what if they mess it up? >> they had a reputation for doing historic docu-dramas. we knew they had done "recount." it had been successful on a lot of levels. we started working with them and found out their reputation was well deserve they were constantly wanting to be as true to the book and as true to histories is possible. they were relentless and dill jen the about trying to stick to the facts. >> for all of the doors, john, that have opened to you right now, have there been some that were closed to you? people that don't like what you put out there? >> not to my knowledge. obviously there have been critics of the film. we urged all those people who were critical of it, most have not seen it, to actually see the movie and i think if they saw it and they saw it with a fair mind, they'd think it was a balanced and pretty nuanced
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picture of sarah palin showing both the positive on the things that were reflected really well and some of the places where she fell short. people have really respected the book and i think by and large respect the movie. >> sarah palin's reaction, was that to be expected or do you dismiss it to a degree because by her own admission she doesn't want to see this movie? >> we wish she'd see the movie. she certainly has over course of the time since she's been -- since she was on the ticket she's done a lot in a very aggressive wa i to keep her profile up. so i think she saw this to some extent at least as an opportunity to do that. stay in the mix. although i think she's incredibly important influential figure in the party. she takes opportunities when she can to raise her visibility. i think this is one of them. >> the last 24 hours i've been asked questions by the national media that are outrageous and disgusting. i've been asked when her amniotic fluid started to leak with regard to her last birth.
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it's shameful. >> so when did it start leaking. >> your term as an actor, are you going to be giving up your career as a celebrated author for acting? >> yes, my 1.4 seconds in the film has set up a new career. i'll be doing shakespeare next summer. >> was it fun, though? >> yes. we were thrilled that they were letting us have cameos. we were not supposed to have any lines. we were just going to hold our recorders. the joke was going to be, there's heilemann and halperin. the director suggested we ad lib at the end of woody harrelson's speech. i had the presence of mind to turn to the screenwriter and say i don't know what to say, give me a line. danny gave me a line. that line caused a lot of people to laugh and they said we have to put that in. >> it's good they did. our conversation with john continues during our 1:00 p.m. hour. he'll size up the gop candidates and tell us about one memorable
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. patrick's day. expect to see more political advertising. a new study predicts total ad spending will reach, a whoping -- are you sitting down -- $9.8 billion this election season. that's compared to about $7 billion in 2008. now that projections includes all races, from presidential to local. the study estimates that nearly half of the election spending will come from political action committees and party committees. ok, guys-- what's next ?
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lawmakers as well as presidents of naacp and the jewish council for public affairs. if president obama wins re-election he could go down as one of the greatest presidents of all time, according to a new historical study. four more years in the white house could transform his ranking in the minds of historians. but what qualities are most important when historians analyze a president's legacy? joining me from waco, texas is the study's author. good morning. >> good morning, alex. >> tell us about the issues that factor into determining a president's ranking. >> what i did here, i did statistical analysis of some surveys like some c-span and "wall street journal." i found there's eight factors that affect presidential greatness from the historians from the experts. >> we're looking at them here. years served, wartime, scandal,
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enervated conditions, reordering, progressive policies, founding fathers and assassination. if he wins re-election, where do you place him. >> he'd serve four more years which would give him more points. i'm also counting under those circumstances that he'd be counts as a reordering or transformative presidents. if he were to do those two things he would score very highly, coming in at fourth on the list, just above jefferson, actually. >> wow. above jefferson? and right on the heels of lincoln, fdr and washington. now, that's if he's re-elected. what do you do with his ranking if he is not? >> if he's not re-elected, two important things, of course, he doesn't get the points for the extra years. and i also count him as then failing to be a transformative president. there's never been a transformative president that's only served one term. and it's actually a penalty if you have the opportunity to be a transformative president and you fail.
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in that case he would end ups a22nd highest president, one up from george h.w. bush. >> when you talk about him being a transformative president, in what factor? we know the obvious that is the first african-american president elected. that is a given. that's phenomenal. in terms of a political calculation is there something there that would transform him as transformative? >> sure. they have to have a new governing philosophy, they have to create a new majority and institutionalize their vision. so presidents like fdr or reagan or jefferson, jackson, lincoln, these are all presidents considered to have done these things. and they usually start about a 30-year trend of their political party doing quite well. this is the definition of a transformative president i use in this survey. >> i'm curious, you mentioned reagan.
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does he rank on the list if you can draw it from memory? >> sure. he's in the top ten, depending on which of the surveys you look at. usually right on the cusp, 9 to 11 would be the average. >> okay. kurt nickels, political science professor at bailey university. thanks for joining us. interesting stuff. >> thank you, alex. checking for a moment on "time" magazine's campaign buzz meter. newt gingrich faring the best today with 46% of public tweets and facebook posts about him being positive. that's up 6% in one day. ron paul's ranking second now with a 44% rating, then followed by mitt romney and rick santorum. [ female announcer ] okay, miss look-at-me. if your neighbor could bring his jaw back up, he'd say, "thank you for making every day halloween." inspired by all you attention grabbers
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♪ stuck like glue, you and me, baby, we're stuck like glue ♪ defense lawyers are planning to appeal the guilty verdicts in a first of its kind case, the spy cam suicide trial. yesterday, new jersey jury found dharun ravi guilty of the most serious charges, which include bias intimidation and invasion of privacy. the 20-year-old used a web cam to snoop on his rutgers roommate, tyler clementi who later killed himself. the victim's father had a message for all students. >> meet a lot of people in your lifetime. some of these people you may not like. but just because you don't like them does not mean you have to work against them. you can make the world a better place. the change you want to see in the world begins with you. >> ravi could spend up to ten years in jail and faces deportation to his native india. defense attorney and former
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prosecutor karen desoto joins me to talk about this. hi, karen. >> good morning, alex. >> give me the message with this verdict what does it say? >> it says you better be civil, keep your mouth shut, not go on social media and say demeaning things about your roommate. i guess that's what it says. it is sending a very clear message and basically, we are kind of legislating morals at this point. >> does this set a precedent of any sort for future cases? >> yeah, it does, because normally, alex, these type of cases, hate crimes i and biased crimes are reserved for violent crimes. so this was the first time a letters crime, one that was not violent, was applied to a case that really was a minor crime and now has been bumped up to a more serious crime. this can be used in all types of cases to bump up minor charges to very serious charges. >> but do you think, karen, this was a case of kids being kids or is this worthy of something more serious? >> this statue was passed in
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2002. i have to be honest with you, i think the statue itself as it is written is broad and vague and i think that it is a slippery slope on how you are going to apply it. when you think of bias crimes, you think of swastikas being painted on synagogues or gangs going out and gay bashing, they call it but you don't really think of it when you are talking about a peeping tom case. so yes this is a present-setting case. the statute is very broad. i don't believe that is what it is intended for. the computers, internet, all of the social media things, people's lives are being impacted by it and it is about time the law started catching one these types of crimes but maybe not this way. >> see, i was gonna ask you about that, because you are talking about sort of -- we are trying to legislate moral knit a way here. >> definitely. >> but given what has been done and given the change in society that all of these social media opportunities provide. >> right.
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>> these outlets, is it hard to separate just legal fact 6 fact from the more nebulous air yaw. are these two colliding appropriately? >> yes and no. other countries, defamation is a crime. we are behind the mark there with computer crimes, internet. i mean, alex, we have been covering these cases for years where people's lives and careers have been impacted by the internet. people say a lot of bad things but really it goes back to sticks and stones could break your bones but words will never hurt you, so now, these types of things are hurting people and now should we legislate morals? these are the types of crime that impact people. should people go to jail for being bad people? yes or no, going to be left oto the legislature which they did and jitter decided yes. >> as a defense attorney, naught hat on right now.
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he was offered a plea deal. what was that? >> no jail time, 600 hours of community service. his attorney decided to go without that, without the bias crime, he was facing five years in jail the privacy, peeping tom issues, why the attorney decided not go with that jitter trial, you never know what is going to happen with a jury, alex, i don't know why the plea deal was disregarded. >> he didn't have you for an attorney. >> sure. >> thanks. that wraps this up hour of weekends with alex witt. join me for a two-hour edition of the show today at noon eastern. straight ahead, more smart political talk on up with chris hayes. ezra klein sitting in for chris. and at 10:00, melissa harris perry, all to come here on msnbc. [ male announcer ] to the 5:00 a.m. scholar. the two trains and a bus rider. the "i'll sleep when it's done" academic.
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